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Issue Brief

August 30, 2021

Pitching Abraham’s tent: The human dimension of UAE-Israeli normalization

By Yoel Guzansky, Shalom Lipner, Jonathan H. Ferziger, Sarah Feuer, Tomer Fadlon, Ari Heistein, Ebtesam Al Ketbi, and Noura Al Breiki

In the past year, many have written on the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states, focusing on economic interests and emphasizing shared security interests in the region. Case studies, however, indicate that relations between countries are improved when they encompass aspects related to the lives of citizens. Incorporating an element of cultural affinity between countries, a dimension that is far less susceptible to abrupt transformation, can serve as a means to stabilize bilateral relations in the face of unforeseen challenges, shifts in regional dynamics, or changes in leadership.

A new issue brief from scholars at the Atlantic Council, the Emirates Policy Center, and the Institute for National Security Studies examines three powerful drivers to bolster people-to-people connections: religious dialogue, sports, and higher education and research. The authors include: Yoel Guzansky, Sarah Feuer, Tomer Fadlon, and Ari Heistein of the Institute for National Security Studies; Shalom Lipner and Jonathan Ferziger of the Atlantic Council; and Ebtesam Al Ketbi and Noura Al Breiki of the Emirates Policy Center.

These elements of soft power play an important role in the national life of both Israel and the UAE, holding the potential to improve relations between the two countries and their peoples. This report also addresses the obstacles—primarily political—to building and maintaining people-to-people relations, as well as the pivotal role of American leadership in ensuring the success of the process.

This paper is part of a strategic collaboration launched by the Atlantic Council (Washington, DC), the Emirates Policy Center (Abu Dhabi), and the Institute for National Security Studies (Tel Aviv). The authors are associated with the initiative’s Working Group on people-to-people and business-to-business ties in the Middle East. The views expressed by the authors are theirs and not their institutions’.

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Atlantic Council experts

Middle East Programs

Through our Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, the Atlantic Council works with allies and partners in Europe and the wider Middle East to protect US interests, build peace and security, and unlock the human potential of the region.

Related Experts: Shalom Lipner and Jonathan H. Ferziger